MBA@UNC Graduate: Russ Pool

Change has always been in Russ Pool’s DNA. A helicopter pilot in the U.S. Marine Corps for 18 years and the son of a former military officer, he has spent a good part of his life changing environments, meeting new people and living in different parts of the world.

“New experiences and exploring new ways to accomplish tasks and goals are in my blood,” he says. “The fact that MBA@UNC offered new technology, an innovative platform and a different approach to learning greatly appealed to me.”

Pool had always wanted to pursue an MBA. He knew that once he transitioned from military life an MBA would provide him with the foundation he needed to not only excel, but also expand upon previous experience.

“I wanted to earn an education that could help me transition from the military and into a second career -- after serving in the Marine Corps."

His mission? To find a way to earn his MBA without compromising his career. Pool was looking for a program that possessed what he calls “life fit” implications – and it had to be the right kind of “life fit.”

When MBA@UNC came along, it was exactly what he was looking for. “It came into view as if out of the fog, and it was perfect,” he says.

“The stigma around online education is that an online program isn’t going to be of the same quality experience as the traditional, on-campus program,” he says.

“The barrier that MBA@UNC broke down was exactly that. UNC was adamant that it was offering the exact same degree — there would be no distinction as to whether you attended the program online or on campus.”

While going to class in a virtual environment appealed to Pool in terms of flexibility, he admits he had some initial trepidation that he might not get the same kind of personal attention from his professors or interaction with his classmates that he might have on campus.

“What I quickly learned was that my concern was completely unwarranted,” he says.

“The platform was almost better than being in a traditional classroom. We could ask questions, we could see each other. We waited patiently to speak or to be called upon. I was almost flabbergasted as to how well it worked.”

Another aspect of the program he values is the contributions of his classmates. “I have greatly benefited from their different experiences and their different perspectives. I learn just as much from my classmates as I do from the faculty and curriculum,” Pool says.

“The sense of family that UNC-Chapel Hill and Kenan-Flagler has provided is really phenomenal,” he says. “They have always emphasized that we are Tar Heels, that we definitely have Carolina blood —and they have made it a cornerstone of the program. For that, I think we’re all the more dedicated to working toward a greater good— with our classmates and the community UNC represents.”